We’ve all been hearing a lot about “fake news” these days, but misinformation on the Internet is nothing new. Fact-checking is near and dear to our hearts, and it matters! Back in the early 2000s, we worried about bogus email chains and Internet urban rumors. These days, we have new names for untrue content. All content deserves a critical eye. Before you start believing The Onion, take a minute to look at the source with a few easy steps:
Read it: Recent studies by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute found that 60% of the time readers comment or share Facebook stories without opening the link to the full story. The best way to combat fake news? Read the story itself! Find out if something in the story doesn’t quite make sense. Satire and jokes come across our feeds as often as misinformation. A great example: you know that hilarious text chain between Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman that your friend shared with you? Try to find out where it came from.
Verify it: Spend some time looking to verify any numbers, quotes, or stated facts in stories. So much of our Internet rumors don’t give the full story. Verifying information sources ends up being a great way to learn more about the world. Sources like FactCheck.org are great for finding updates on the rapid world of Internet myths.
Date it: Just because something was true in 2013 doesn’t mean it’s true now. We’re used to our social media posts being up-to-the-minute, and we don’t train our eyes to look for date stamps on posts. You’ll rarely find false info with a date, but even training yourself to look more carefully for a date will help you be a more critical consumer of information.